Europe South Asia Asia Pacific Americas Middle East Africa BBC Homepage World Service Education



Front Page

World

UK

UK Politics

Business

Sci/Tech

Health

Education

Sport

Entertainment

Talking Point

In Depth

On Air

Archive
Feedback
Low Graphics
Help

Saturday, July 10, 1999 Published at 19:02 GMT 20:02 UK


World: Europe

On the streets of Serbia

Leskovac demonstrations are spontaneous and well attended

By Jonathan Paterson in Leskovac

Every night this week in the town of Leskovac in southern Serbia, near the border with Kosovo, people have taken to the streets in large anti-government protests.

The demonstrations have not been organised by any political group, but are a spontaneous outpouring of anger.

Kosovo: Special Report
On Monday it is said 20,000 people were on out the streets. The numbers have fallen now, but still by the end of the week 2,000 people were standing in the city square demanding changes.

"We couldn't believe in our wildest dreams that so many people could be on the streets," says Maria Nesic, a human rights campaigner.

She says people are motivated by their anger about the war in Kosovo.

Forty-thousand people were drafted into the Yugoslav Army from Leskovac. Official figures say 57 people were killed but Maria does not believe it. She knows someone who was killed and his name did not appear on any list.

"During the war it was forbidden to print death notices, and it was forbidden to put announcements in the papers. What we found out was only through rumours," she says.

Those who do come home have little to return to. "This is a very poor town," she says. "We don't have enough for a decent living. Nothing is working here."

How it all started


[ image:  ]
The man who inspired the protests is Ivan Novkovic, a technician at the local television station in Leskovac.

Last Friday much of the town was watching the semi-finals of the European Basketball Championship - Yugoslavia was playing Italy.

At half time the commentary was interrupted and the screen cut to an image of Novkovic reading a statement. He denounced the management of the TV station, and the local city authorities, and called the people of the town to a rally on Monday night.

Twenty-thousand people turned up.

In the middle of the crowd stood Ivan, standing on top of a car shouting into a megaphone, explaining why he has had enough.

'We want Ivan'

On Tuesday Ivan was arrested, and jailed for 30 days for organising an illegal demonstration. That night the people turned on the local police and tried to force their way into the police station. Chanting "We want Ivan" They were beaten back by the police.

Every night at the demonstrations, people have been chanting his name.

On Wednesday the Serbian Renewal Movement, who had previously refused to back street demonstrations, said they would support the people of Leskovac.

Noticeably less people turned up that night. Whistles and jeers greeted the politicans who spoke. "In my opinion it's better to be spontaneous," Maria says. She is worried the politicians have a different agenda.

Back from the war

Among the demonstrators on Wednesday was Nenad Mitrovic. Nenad was drafted during the war, and served on an anti-aircraft battery. They were targetted by Nato planes, a bomb exploded 70 metres from their position. He is still shaken up by it he says and his bottom lip quivers as he speaks.

But his English is excellent. He likes football, although he thinks the Yugoslav team could do better, and prefers the music of Depeche Mode to anything Serbia has to offer.

"I was in the war for four months", he says. "And I would fight again for Serbia, but never again for Milosovic."

Like many people here, he was afraid to speak out, but now? "Never mind," he says. "I'm here because I believe in a better future."



Advanced options | Search tips




Back to top | BBC News Home | BBC Homepage | ©




Africa | Americas | Asia-Pacific | Europe | Middle East | South Asia



Relevant Stories

10 Jul 99 | Europe
Russian troops deploy in Kosovo

08 Jul 99 | Europe
Analysis: The battle in Serbia

08 Jul 99 | Monitoring
Serbian nationalists slam local media

07 Jul 99 | Monitoring
Serb media quiet on protests

05 Jul 99 | Europe
Thousands call for Milosevic to go

05 Apr 99 | Monitoring
Serb TV highlights anti-Nato protests





Internet Links


Kosovo Crisis Centre

Serbian Ministry of Information

United Nations in Kosovo

UNHCR Kosovo update

Nato


The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites.




In this section

Violence greets Clinton visit

Russian forces pound Grozny

EU fraud: a billion dollar bill

Next steps for peace

Cardinal may face loan-shark charges

From Business
Vodafone takeover battle heats up

Trans-Turkish pipeline deal signed

French party seeks new leader

Jube tube debut

Athens riots for Clinton visit

UN envoy discusses Chechnya in Moscow

Solana new Western European Union chief

Moldova's PM-designate withdraws

Chechen government welcomes summit

In pictures: Clinton's violent welcome

Georgia protests over Russian 'attack'

UN chief: No Chechen 'catastrophe'

New arms control treaty for Europe

From Business
Mannesmann fights back

EU fraud -- a billion-dollar bill

New moves in Spain's terror scandal

EU allows labelling of British beef

UN seeks more security in Chechnya

Athens riots for Clinton visit

Russia's media war over Chechnya

Homeless suffer as quake toll rises

Analysis: East-West relations must shift